Who would have thought that this is what can be captured on camera, high up in the Helderberg hills of Somerset West, some 473 metres above sea level?
Along with this leopard, honey badgers and caracal were sighted last week by Gerald Wright, the independent conservationist who heads Vergelegen’s biodiversity project, situated in one of the richest floral regions of the world.
Gerald is pioneering an alien clearing programme to restore 2000 ha of farm land to a pristine example of the Cape’s natural flora and fauna, considered the biggest private project of its kind in South Africa.
The programme is part of an ambitious, multi-dimensional conservation project, geared towards combating alien and invasive plant infestation and nurturing the return of natural vegetation, wetlands, birds and animals.
Besides exceptional wines with a string of local and international awards, the 300-year-old Estate is known for its natural beauty, historic buildings, summer picnics, concerts, fine fare restaurant and extensive gardens – where at no point is the garden visible in its entirety.
After purchasing Vergelegen in 1987, Anglo American Farms Ltd restored the gardens and grounds around the Estate’s historic core, based on the concept of retaining the best from all periods. Landscape architect, the late Ian Ford, developed a theme of generous and intimate garden areas, contrasting the simple with the bold, the formal of the gardens with the informal of grasses and woodlands.
Apart from it being the first champion of the Biodiversity in Wine Initiative, another facet to celebrate is Vergelegen’s recent award: the first International Camellia Garden of Excellence, one of only 17 such gardens in the world, and the second in the southern hemisphere. South Africa has a new national treasure, in more senses than one!